The police can question you at any time, although you do not necessarily have to answer their questions. If you are arrested or you agree to a voluntary police interview, you have the right to free legal advice from a criminal defence solicitor. It is important to exercise this right, even if that means stopping the police interview.
If you have been arrested, or you have been asked to attend a police station for questioning, please contact us at Ashmans Solicitors. We offer free police station representation and act for clients across England and Wales. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
When and where can the police question me?
We have all seen TV dramas where the police conduct endless rounds of questioning. Suspects, witnesses and victims all receive visits, be it at their home, work or hospital bed. Other scenes take place at the police station, with recording equipment and perhaps a legal representative sitting nearby.
But how does this correlate to real life?
In theory, police officers in England and Wales are allowed to question you at any time, in any place. This includes at your home, at your place of work, on the street or in a police station.
Do I have to answer police questions?
While the police can question you at any time, you do not have to answer these questions. However, if you are suspected of committing a crime, then failing to provide basic details such as your name could provide grounds for an arrest.
Do I have to answer police questions if I’ve done nothing wrong?
If you are not suspected of a crime, then you do not have to say anything to a police officer. You can be walking down the street and a police officer can ask where you are going, to which you can respond that you would rather not say. As you are not suspected of doing anything wrong, the police officer has no power to take further action.
Do I have to answer police questions if I’m a suspect?
If you are suspected of a crime, then the situation is a little less clear-cut. While the police cannot force you to answer their questions, you may be arrested if you fail to provide basic details such as:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your place and date of birth
- A brief description of your behaviour, such as where you are going
If you do not answer these questions then the police can argue that your arrest is a ‘necessity’, as you refused to co-operate with their investigation on a voluntary basis.
Can the police question me in my home?
The police can visit you at your home. You do not have to let them in if you do not want to. You do not have to answer any police questions. But if you are suspected of committing a crime, this may give the police grounds to arrest you.
The police cannot search you or your property unless they have a valid search warrant.
The police cannot force their way into private property unless they:
- Have a search warrant
- Want to arrest you
- Hear cries for help or distress
- Are pursuing someone thought to have committed a criminal offence
Can the police question me in a public place?
The police can stop you in any public place and question you. As we have explained above, you do not have to answer any police questions. But if you are suspected of committing a crime, this may give the police grounds to arrest you.
If you are in a public place, then the police can also search you if:
- They have a search warrant; or
- There are reasonable grounds to indicate that you are carrying a weapon, illegal drugs, stolen property or something which could be used to commit a criminal offence
In certain situations, you may be stopped and searched, even if there are not reasonable grounds to do so.
Can the police question me if they stop my vehicle?
If the police stop you while you are driving, then you must provide your driver’s licence and certificate of insurance. Other documents may also be requested, such as an MOT, if applicable. If you do not provide these details then you can be arrested.
Do I have to answer police questions during a voluntary interview?
It is very common for the police to invite suspects for a voluntary interview at a police station. This is sometimes known as an ‘interview under caution’ because you will be read the formal police caution before it begins. This is the well-known phrase:
“You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention something when questioned that you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence”.
Often you will be asked to come in for a ‘chat’ and told that you have nothing to worry about. However, you should be very wary of voluntary police interviews. If you are a suspect in a criminal case, then make no mistake: the police are interviewing you to aid their investigation. They are looking for evidence that will incriminate you.
You do not have to answer any police questions during a voluntary interview. You have the right to remain silent and can answer ‘no comment’ if you do not want to answer a particular question. However, you need to be sure that this will not actually damage your case. That is why you must take a criminal defence solicitor with you. A solicitor can tell you what questions to answer, providing advice for the duration of the interview. You do not have to pay for this legal advice: everyone is entitled to free police station representation, even those who have not been arrested.
Can I stop a voluntary police interview?
You are not under arrest, so you are free to leave the interview at any time. Of course, if you do not co-operate, then the police may choose to arrest you instead. But if you are being interviewed under caution, then it is possible that the police do not have enough evidence to arrest you. Your solicitor will advise you on how best to proceed.
A situation may also arise where you thought you were attending the police station for a friendly chat, only to find yourself in a formal interview room. Once you are read the police caution and the recording equipment is switched on, you might regret the fact that you have not spoken to a solicitor. If this happens, then you are perfectly entitled to stop the police interview and request legal representation. The attending officers must then finish the interview immediately and wait until you have sought legal advice.
We regularly hear from people who felt duped into attending a voluntary interview and wished that they had been accompanied by a solicitor. Sadly, they did not stop the interview because it was already underway and assumed that they had to continue. This is not the case: you can stop a police interview at any point and ask to speak to a lawyer.
What should I do if I’m invited for a voluntary interview?
If you are invited for a voluntary interview, you should contact one of our solicitors immediately. We offer free police station representation. We can advise you how to conduct the interview, and if appropriate, can accompany you to the interview.
Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Do I have to answer police questions if I’m arrested?
Alternatively, you may be arrested and taken to a police station for questioning. You do not have to answer any police questions and can remain silent, if you want to. However, this might work against you, if you later provide an answer to the same questions and your case ends up in court. The court might wonder why you did not answer the police the first-time round, and may even infer that you falsified the answer, having had time to think about it. These are the types of things a solicitor can advise you on.
What should I do if I’m arrested?
If you are arrested and taken to a police station then you should contact the criminal defence solicitors at Ashmans. We offer free police station representation. You have various legal rights when arrested, including the right to free legal advice. It is important that you exercise this right, as it will help your case.
Related: What Are My Rights When Arrested?
If you have been arrested or asked to answer police questions, call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.